Six games. Six wins. 18 points. This actually needs more numbers to make it a completely mind-altering sentence: Sporting KC have trailed for a grand total of 24 minutes, just finished a streak of not allowing a shot on goal in 335 minutes and, oh yeah, have only ceded one solitary goal.
To amass this streak, manager Peter Vermes has been pretty consistent: 10 players have started all six games. If it weren't for Teal Bunbury getting the nod over C.J Sapong in the season opener, that would probably have been 11 players with six starts.
Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza have logged the maximum 540 minutes. Seth Sinovic is one minute shy of joining that group. Aurelien Collin and Graham Zusi have played more than 500 minutes.
What's more: While 17 players have actually seen the pitch this year, only the top 12 have accrued more than 90 minutes on the field (and Bunbury has just over that mark with 92). The most popular substitutes, Paulo Nagamura and Jacob Peterson, have logged just 85 and 52 minutes of action, respectively.
It's hard to argue with the results and you hate to break up a good thing. But this season is a marathon not a sprint. Kansas City improved its depth in the off-season to combat the length and difficulty of an MLS season.
There are going to be challenging weeks (schedule-wise), injury concerns (KC have been very fortunate to date) and man-management headaches (Michael Harrington could start for a few teams in MLS, but has only 1 minute on the field this season).
With a tough back-to-back ahead (Vancouver on Wednesday and Portland on Saturday) and the first injury (midfielder Julio Cesar has already been ruled out of Wednesday's match with a hamstring strain) though, it's time for Vermes to put the team's depth to good use.
The most likely change will be Nagamura replacing Cesar in the defensive midfield role -- which is what happened last Saturday when Cesar went down in the 51st minute.
After that, it's anyone's guess what Vermes will do. This is the first real test of Vermes' man management skills this season. Can he find a way to rotate his squad without sacrificing the momentum that his starting lineup and substitutes have created?
That's the key question. But there are others to be answered over the next four days.
Does Harrington give Myers/Sinovic a rest at fullback? Will Dom Dwyer get his first start (or, if not that, his first appearance)? Are there minutes for Soony Saad? Can Vermes afford to rest either Espinoza or Zusi with Cesar injured? Is it better to rest a central defender now (Collin or Besler) than risk an injury through over-playing later? Will some of the young guys who impressed during pre-season and/or reserve matches (Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad, Konrad Warzycha) get a chance to prove themselves?
My educated guesses? Peterson and Harrington will get a start (though not at the same time) for Convey and Sinovic, respectively. Dwyer and/or Saad will get minutes off the bench. And, if Cesar returns to the lineup on Saturday, I think we could see Luke Sassano give Roger Espinoza a breather (either as a starter or a second-half sub).
Getting the young guys and the fringe starters action now could be a huge help later if an injury presents itself. The more chances a player can gel with his teammates, the easier the transition.
If, for whatever reason, Vermes decides to continue riding the hot hands (which wouldn't be too crazy: after the team's game on Saturday, it won't play again until May 5) he'll definitely have to start rotating in May when the U.S. Open Cup looms.
About the Match
Kickoff is 9 p.m. on Wednesday on KSMO-TV with Callum Williams and Jake Yadrich on the call.
The Whitecaps are 2-1-2 on the season with both wins coming in the first two weeks of the season. Vancouver last played on April 7 and lost 3-1 to San Jose. The goal was the team's first since March 17th.Projected line-up for Sporting KC:
GK: Jimmy Nielsen-c; DEF: Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; MID: Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza; FWD: Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Jacob Peterson. SUBS: Jon Kempin, Lawrence Olum, Michael Harrington, Luke Sassano, Soony Saad, Teal Bunbury, Bobby Convey.Prediction time:
Kansas City 1, Vancouver 0. The winning streak continues as the slumping 'Caps struggle to score.Pre-match hype song:
It's a little belated (since I was on vacation last week) but this was hands down the best band I saw during the three-day Middle of the Map Fest -- El Ten Eleven.* They were amazing and really have to be seen to be believed. This is “My Only Swerving.” They do all of the looping effects live.
Yes, he's playing the guitar and bass at the same time.*The rest of the good bands I saw: Schwervon (a guitar-drummer couple that will never shake White Stripes comparisons), Season to Risk (didn't know them before, though I'm certain I saw them in high school), Coalesce (just a great show which featured guitarist Jes Steineger hanging from a rafter while still playing his guitar with one hand) and Hospital Ships (very interesting if a little bit precious and precocious).